Fire Safety

20 Apr 2020
By Higher Education Team, Author at Unite Students

Safety at uS

Safety forms a key part of how we operate as a responsible business, underpinned by our commitment to go above and beyond minimum standards to provide the safest and most secure environment for our students and employees. As a result, we are delighted that we have achieved a Five-Star audit score (out of five) from the British Safety Council (BSC) following an Occupational Health & Safety audit in November. The audit measures our performance against a number of key safety management indicators, providing organisations with a worldwide benchmark of their safety management systems against current best practice to enable continual improvement. This result reflects significant improvement from our last audit 18 months ago, where we were awarded a Four Star rating.

Fire Prevention for 2020

Unite Students fire safety management system is centred around ‘Fire Prevention for 2020’, we are proactively working to reduce the number of fires in all buildings which will ensure safer environments for all premises occupants.

Fire safety is a critical part of our health and safety strategy. Our fire safety plans involve engagement with our Primary Authority, local fire brigades and independent fire safety experts who conduct annual assessments of our portfolio and have confirmed that all of our properties are safe for occupation. 

How we’re managing cladding

We work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to ensure our properties comply with emerging guidelines. As part of this, following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we took swift decisions, and were amongst the first to act in removing the Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM) cladding from our buildings where needed, in line with Government advice. We take fire safety extremely seriously and are at the forefront of new improvements: we were one of the first to act on ACM advice. More recently and in accordance with the Government’s Building Safety Advice of 20 January 2020, we are undertaking a thorough review of the use of High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding on our properties.  The vast majority of our buildings have minimal HPL, covering less than a quarter of the buildings, and in these buildings, we have introduced special measures. 

All of our buildings have been confirmed safe for students to occupy by independent fire safety experts. We are committed to doing what’s right, in line with our values. 

Covid-19 Advice

During the current ‘lock-down’ process and subsequent reduced occupancy in buildings, we will still investigate fires as per our normal procedure. However, if reduced staffing levels mean we are less able to investigate the initial cause of any alarm activation, a full building evacuation will be initiated to ensure the safety of all residents. We are asking students who are self-isolating to continue to adopt social distancing measures whilst at the fire assembly point.

Other fire safety management updates

Our Fire Safety Manager maintains close liaison with all six regions of Unite Students to ensure technical advice is available at all times, this includes ‘Fire Safety Surgeries’ to facilitate two-way discussion and consultation.

We have commenced a new round of our full fire risk assessment programme, using ‘FCS Live’ who will provide high level assessments for all buildings during 2020, providing us with high assurance that all our premises are effective in preventing fires. These assessments will go beyond a standard FRA and will also include site plans and a brief outline of the premises fire strategy i.e. method of construction, number of floors, fire safety asset provision such as fire alarm system, ventilation, emergency lighting, fixed installations etc. 

In order to work towards a ‘best practice’ model our fire safety management system will be subjected to a UKAS external audit by MMRA the accredited auditors during 2020/21 to achieve accreditation to BS:9997 the new British Standard mark. 

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